Reflections, thoughts and books


(one of the bronze dancing cherubs at the city cemetery Mackinac Island / Julie Cook / 2017)

Recently, over on a fellow blogger’s site, I read a most wonderful post written
about our dear friend Dietrich Bonhoeffer…
The following passage jumped right off the page,
right at me as it spoke to me about faith and as it challenged me to consider
what type of faith do I actually possess….
inward or outward….

Faith does not look upon itself but takes hold of that which is outside
itself, Christ.
Bonhoeffer draws on a Latin phrase from an early period of Protestant dogmatics,
actus directus,
as distinguished from actus reflexus,
to characterize the nature of true faith.

The difference here is between a faith that attends to God,
entrusting itself to God to be watched over and kept,
versus a faith that is constantly concerned to oversee itself,
ensuring its own vitality.

For Bonhoeffer, this is a way finally of avoiding faith –
for like Peter in the sea of Galilee,
it takes its eyes off of the living Christ who is the source of our life.

This emphasis upon the outward direction of faith that lays hold of Christ
in pure intentionality,
in a kind of passive reception where the self is kept out,
structures much of Bonhoeffer’s later reflections on ethics.
While we do not see him returning to this phrase,
the concept remains operative.

excerpt from the blog post Freedom in Orthodoxy
http://freedominorthodoxy.blogspot.com/2017/07/bonhoeffer-and-role-of-moral-reflection.html

“A faith that attends to God…”

I looked up various synonyms for the word attend and found the word dwell
which I like here as it fits in perfectly…
it fits in such a way that it reminds us that our faith should be such that
we are to dwell in to God….to be a cohabitant within….

Verses a faith that attends to self….
and if we are to use the same word of “dwell” here,
then we are saying that it is a faith that dwells within self…
and somehow that does not sound like faith at all but mostly a self
centered inclination…something much along the lines of today’s culture of the
religion of self.

Bonhoeffer is reminding us that we must constantly work to strive to reach out of
self, out of ourselves…out to the living God…so that we may then, in turn,
dwell within Him and within Him alone…..

Then next, on the same day of perusing, I read another great post by our good
friend the Scottish Pastor David Robertson.
This time he was offering a two part reflection regarding a book that he
most recently read…a review of sorts that due to his often verbose ways, he
opted to review over a period of time.

The book is entitled The Strange Death of Europe by David Murray.

From all outward appearances David Murray and David Robertson are probably polar
opposites of sorts and not exactly on the same page in life…
as Mr. Murray is an openly avowed homosexual as well as ardent Atheist and we know that Pastor David Robertson often writes about both topics…
as to why homosexuality and or atheism, from the Christian perspective,
are both wrong and sinful.

Yet Pastor Robertson read, enjoyed and whole heartedly agreed with Mr. Murray’s
observations regarding Europe and her mad dash to committing a ‘political suicide’
of sorts as she has forgotten,
or better yet recklessly thrown away with ardent abandon,
her Christian roots….

Replacing those long standing roots with a new religion…
that being the religion of humanism, materialism and human rights.
Because isn’t that what this has all become…
that for the majority part of the West, it is the religion of Human Rights…

In all the current melee, Europe is now lost as to what to do with the massive
Islamic influx that is currently and literally sweeping in with the tide….

One passage that Pastor Robertson highlights as brilliant on Murray’s part is the following observation:

in order to incorporate as large and wide number of people as possible it is
necessary to come up with a definition of inclusion that is as wide and
unobjectionable as possible.
If Europe is going to become a home for the world it must search for a
definition of itself that is wide enough to encompass the world.
This means that in the period before this aspiration collapses our values become
so wide as to become meaninglessly shallow.
So whereas European identity in the past could be attributed to highly specific,
not to mention philosophically and historically deep foundations
(the rule of law, the ethics derived from the continent’s history and philosophy),
today the ethics and belief of Europe—
indeed the identity and ideology of Europe–
have become about ‘respect’, ‘tolerance’ and
(most self abrogating of all) ‘diversity’.
Such shallow self definitions may get us through a few more years,
they have no chance at all being able to call on the deeper loyalties that
societies must be able to reach if they are going to survive for long.”
P.7

And I for one see that his observation is not merely a European problem
but rather an American dilemma as well as we are also striving to “redefine” who
and what America actually is and means…
trading our true foundation and founding principles for something vastly
other than…
something humanistic, materialistic and oh so smugly human rights oriented…
As one reviewer wrote about having read Mr Murray’s book and of the dismal
position the West seems to have taken over the current identity crisis…
as in it has no real answers or position because
“modern culture has little to offer a person other than entertainment.”

And it is here where the good pastor leaves us until he comes back for part 2
of his review.

In the meantime, I’ve put the book on my order list.

Here’s a link to Robertson’s full review post…

Douglas Murray – The Strange Death of Europe – Part One – Meaningless Shallowness

So I will leave us today with these various interesting thoughts—
thoughts on faith–inward and outward…
and thoughts on the West’s seemingly mad dash to Western Civilization’s demise…

a conflicting conundrum indeed….

Do not love the world or anything in the world.
If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.
For everything in the world—-the lust of the flesh,
the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—-
comes not from the Father but from the world.
The world and its desires pass away,
but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

1 John:15-17

loveliness amongst the lilies….

The day the power of love overrules the love of power,
the world will know peace.”

― Mahatma Gandhi

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(a water lily blooms / Deer Lake, Watercolor Beach Community / Julie Cook / 2016)

Any pond owner can tell you all about the love / hate relationship they have with water lilies.

On the one hand, water lilies are pleasing to the eye as they languidly spend life just floating around.
They help to conjure up thoughts of idyllically kayaking or canoeing around said peaceful bodies of water…as we languidly long to spend life much like the water lily, just kicking back and letting life be….

Lilies provide and offer inviting homes to a myriad of reptiles, amphibians, fish and water fowl.
They provide delightful visual bursts of color across an otherwise barren greenish body water….
They offer shade underneath the water and help to encourage mini ecosystems within the pond itself.

However if left unchecked and unmanaged, they can grow out of control…giving into their invasive
tendencies.
As they will eventually choke out the very fish and aquatic animals who they once provided shelter and nourishment to…
Sucking out the very oxygen and nutrients from the water which helped to
sustain those dependent on such.

Lilies will eventually cover and clog a once thriving body of water…
rendering it dead, empty and useless.

So what is initially considered lovely and even beneficial in moderation,
is anything but lovely when left to its own devices….

Much like ourselves.

We often have good intentions.
We start out wanting to do the right things,
to do well,
to be productive,
to aid our fellow man…

We work on focusing on the positive and all which is good.
We put our best efforts and best foot forward.
We are filled with all things altruistic, looking outward rather than inward…

Yet something happens…
our vision begins to fade…
as our sights shift…
Outward becomes inward
as the ‘theys’ become less and the ‘mes’ becomes more…

We grow out of control…
We allow ourselves to go unchecked, unmanaged.
The negatives become invasive, choking out all the positives

Intentions easily turn…empty.

There is but only One who can manage this unchecked overgrowth of ours…
Turning unmanageable ways…from the negative back to the positive…
It is a matter of focusing,
self discipline
and daily yielding…
Yeilding to the only One who desires to maintain that which has gone awry …

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood,
and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—–
to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.

Revelation 1:5-6

Inside out

“The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of people, and then they take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature.”
Ezra Taft Benson

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(a spicebruch swallowtail butterfly found its way into the kitchen / Julie Cook / 2015)

My aunt and I walked out onto the back deck this afternoon–out from the kitchen door in order to get a closer look at a deer out in the back yard—we had left the kitchen door slightly ajar.
As we stood gawking at a doe nibbling on the grass, a spicebrush swallowtail butterfly, sporadically flittering over our heads,
makes it’s way along the deck heading directly for the kitchen door–
with the cat in hot pursuit.

The next thing I know, the butterfly is in the kitchen, flying immediately toward the shuttered kitchen windows. In a blink of an eye it makes its way through the slats of the far window, trapping itself between the shutter and the window. The cat now stretching to reach the window.

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I quickly opened the shutters, gently reaching in to cup my hands over my flighty visitor.
Easing my hands around him / her, I quickly escort my friend back outside. Freely opening my hands, the spicebrush takes off missing nary a beat with its herky jerky flight pattern. . .
this time far away from my open door.

Inside out, or outside in–either way it made for a bit of a trouble for the visiting butterfly, as well as for me, as I clambered over chairs to get to my guest quickly before it hurt itself or the cat beat me to it.

This latest escapade of mine had my thoughts shifting to the whole concept of inside out / outside in. . .
With Mr Benson’s quote for today’s post painting a very plain talking sort of thought, his words resonating deeply in my thought process. . .”God works from the inside out as the world works from the outside in. . .”

Intrinsic verses extrinsic.
Proactive verses reactive
Victim verses survivor

To be a Christian–one who lives in the world yet is not of the world is nothing short of learning to swim against the rip tide current.
When the world screams inclusiveness, the Christian claims conviction—
When the masses demand rights the Christian stands firm with an absolute.

Lines have blurred.
The world demands the bending of the sanctified spirit.
There are those who begin to question their beliefs—thinking that if the whole world seems to think that its way is the only way, lulling the questioning believer into falsely accepting such as truth, then the existence of the sanctified Truth becomes colluded.

Yet the Word was spoken. . .it has not changed, it has not deviated–it resonates deep from within, emanating outward—just as a stone dropped into a still pool of water with the rings of disturbance reverberating outward, ad infinitum, as it grows greater and wider from its center, so too does the Word of God. . .from the inside where God plants the seed of Truth in the heart of man, the Word spreads, speeding ever outward to touch a troubled world. . .and nothing shall stand in the way of God’s emanating Truth. . .that which starts from the inside spiraling ever outward.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
John 1:1-5

A disclaimer of Wonderment

“To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.”

― William Blake

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(beauty found in the wild grasses of a meadow / Julie Cook / 2015)

The beauty and wonder of nature. . .
They stand before us in majesty and splendor
just as they float to us upon a sweet whisper of wind.

Striking and stirring
Humbling and demure.

Perhaps you’ve seen the commercial, a car commercial I think. . .
A dad takes his young son, who is perhaps eight or so, to see the massive
great Sequoias of the Redwood Forest.
The child stands at the foot of one of the oldest and tallest trees on the planet with
little to no sense of acknowledgement other than a passing “thought they’d be bigger”
The dad simply looks at his son with a slight bemused smile of “Really??”

Next scene—-the dad stands with his son on the rim of the Grand Canyon with its sweeping and overwhelming beauty.
The child merely shrugs his shoulders with the unheard sound of an unimpressed “ehhhh”
The dad slowly shakes his head in disbelief–as if to say “you’ve got to be kidding me??”

The last scene is of the dad at the wheel of the car with his son strapped into the back seat. The car is stopped in the middle of a road that one assumes is in Yellowstone Park as a massive Bison has sauntered up to the child’s window and is staring down at a now very impressed young man.
He looks up at the bison then over to his dad with an ear to ear grin across his face, as the dad finally has a sense of satisfaction in having found something in this most majestic world that has left his son speechless. . .

I believe this commercial speaks volumes to our current plight of jadedness.

It seems we’ve become so inwardly involved with our technology, our gizmos and social media overload that we are failing to be impressed, let alone acknowledging, the outward wonders which surround us each and every day.

Are we failing when it comes to our youth who seem to be more impressed by video games, television and gadgets than by the gifts of Nature? Are we failing ourselves when we don’t stop long enough to wonder at a sunset, the blooms of a flower, the majesty of a tree—no longer impressed by blossoms, sprouting, growth or natural wonder?

I stop in on occasion to read various posts by other bloggers.
I am awed and humbled most often by the shared perspectives that are offered–be it thoughts regarding the beautiful gifts of Nature, the joy of creativity found in the Arts, or the teachings and shared delvings into our relationship with the Creator of the Universe.

One Christian site, whose author pretty much tells it like it is, mixes allegory with reality while painting a most colorful observation of the relationship of man to the Holy Word of God.
In so doing he has drawn the ire of a huge crowd of non believers, as well as a few lukewarm believers who find his view a bit much, extreme, or in the thoughts of some, just totally wrong.

I for one think that Christians (of any denomination) shouldn’t dumb things down nor should we sugar coat the Word of God—To the Believer, the word is The Word and to honor that Word it is what we do—I believe we call that worship. . .
To a non believer, however, it is all simply mumbo jumbo hocus pocus.
I therefore applaud this blogger’s approach to what we Christians deem as Truth—but what is Truth to some, speaks of falsehood to another. . .as is sadly, much the way of the world. . .

Unfortunately this particular blogger is besieged with vehement commentary that reeks of on-line bullying.
The teacher and mother in me gets quite upset with the ugly things thrown his way, which are in turn, subsequently thrown to those who respond with supportive comments. It’s one thing to disagree with a fellow blogger while offering a counter thought but to sling ugly names and accusations is something else entirely.

My thought is if you don’t like what you’re reading, for Heaven’s sake, go find what it is you do like reading. And if you find something you consider out in left field, well, seek the field that makes you happy. . .allowing the Christians their right to speak their minds while allowing all the other worldly and varying religions and non religions to speak their minds as well.

The blogging world is truly a vast region to be sure. . .

Why do we attack others and their opinions?
We are all still entitled to opinions are we not?
Good or bad?
Wrong or right?

What does a blog battle of believer verses non-believer have to do with a commercial, the grandeur of nature and of you and I. . .everyone must now be wondering. . .well. . .

I suppose it’s just that I marvel at those who don’t marvel in the created marvels which have us constantly and marvelously surrounded.
How does one stand on the edge of the Grand Canyon, or along the shoreline of an ocean or at the base of a massive tree without feeling awed, wowed, or simply swept up in the greatness by feeling perhaps humbled and small?

Maybe if we turned our sites outward, rather than inward.
Maybe if we found the wonderment in our natural surroundings.
Maybe if we fought less with one another and. . .
wondered more,
wandered more,
marveled more. . .

Yes, I claim the Word of God to be the Word offered to me, and to anyone else for that matter,
who has ear to hear or desire to seek. . .
I in turn offer it here, in small humbled doses, as He offers it to me to share.
I am a vessel,
a vehicle,
a facilitator.

I don’t have all the answers to all the questions.
I stumble and fall most often along this journey known as life.
I make mistakes and screw up royally as I am no poster child for what is Holy and Pure for I know that I am broken and flawed. . .
Yet it is in that brokeness that I find. . .
Hope,
Healing,
Salvation. . .

That’s just . . .
my thought,
my opinion,
my belief—
Something I’m still pretty certain I’m allowed to have. . .
Despite it not falling in-line with that of the World’s. . .

So if you don’t feel much like wondering, wandering or marveling in the marvelous world around you, you are free to leave in order to visit other places. . .
It is here that I hope to offer morsels, crumbs, and tastes of simple Wonderment from that which is truly Divine. . .